SH1 Western Corridor Upgrade Works

There’s been a lot of work happening along State Highway 1 between Hornby and Belfast past the airport. Various parts of it are being four-laned to get it closer to expressway standard. Now the section in the middle nearest the airport is out for formal consultation (due by Dec 18th) as it seeks Resource Consent approval. If you work near the airport or like to ride out that way then you might be interested in what is proposed.

The proposed new flyover of Russley Rd at Memorial Ave (looking towards the city)
Proposed new flyover of Russley Rd at Memorial Ave (looking towards the city)

Consent documentation for projects like this always seems to be a mountain of information to wade through, and this one is no exception (surely that couldn’t be to discourage people from submitting…?). There are at least 50 (yes: five,zero) different attachments provided in this case. The titles are not that helpful, and it also doesn’t indicate that some of them are very large documents (three over 70MB). So to help you make some sense of this (handy hint: the “RFI response” documents are generally the most recent versions), I’ll point out some of the most interesting details from a cycling perspective:

    • First a quick run-down of what is intended: “Application (1 of 5)” (11MB) gives a very detailed overview of the whole project (or check out “RFI response 4” for just the current plans; 6MB). Alternatively, you might like to have a look at NZTA’s website for this project; definitely more user-friendly. Essentially the project involves four-laning this section of highway, with an upgraded roundabout at Harewood Rd, limited access at Wairakei Rd, a flyover with traffic signals underneath at Memorial Ave, closing off Avonhead Rd access, and a new southern airport access with an underpass.
    SH1 Russley Road Project Overview
    SH1 Russley Road Project Overview
    •  So what’s in it for cycling? The key things identified are 2.5m shoulders along the whole highway route, on-road links via the southern access interchange and Memorial Ave intersection, and an underpass spanning the Harewood roundabout.
    Walking and cycling provision along the project
    Walking and cycling provision along the project

    Gee, that seems generous; should we be worried? Well there are plenty of wrinkles in what has been proposed that could still make cycling a bit of a mission in places.

    • Let’s start with the main highway itself. It’s great that there will be very wide shoulders along its length, thus enabling confident road training or touring cyclists their own space on what will be a busy 80km/h road. It should be noted though that a Spokes survey (xls) of over 200 respondents back in late 2011 found an overwhelming preference for off-road facilities along here, not on-road. One particular issue is how cycling is provided for at the various on- and off-ramps; typically riders are expected to wait at a special hold point before crossing over the ramp – I can see that working well in rush hour…
    Cycle crossings at ramps - yes, that's convenient...
    Cycle crossings at ramps – yes, that’s convenient…
    • Starting from the north, probably the biggest concession for cycling made by the planners after the initial consultation (helped no doubt by the strong findings from the previously-mentioned survey) was the introduction of an underpass at the Harewood Rd roundabout. The thinking here is that this enables safe connections across the highway for riders heading towards the airport and also the popular McLeans Island recreational areas. Unfortunately the proposed implementation leaves a bit to be desired. NZTA encountered problems getting agreement from the landowners on both the NW and SE corners respectively (various options considered can be found in Appendix L of “Application (3 of 5)“). As a result, the underpass crosses diagonally from Whitchurch Rd in the NE to the SW corner; a longer route and certainly more indirect for most. If you then want to head towards McLeans Island, you then have the privilege of trying to cross five lanes of traffic on Harewood Rd; I’m not entirely sure how this improves on the current highway where you have to cross four lanes…
    Harewood Roundabout underpass - helpful?
    Harewood Roundabout underpass – helpful?

    The 130m underpass itself is of a good size, being 5m wide and 2.5m high. In the middle it is proposed to have a series of large (0.6m) holes in the ceiling to let in natural light and ventilation. I’m not entirely sure why the underpass couldn’t be made open-air through the middle of the roundabout, as was done with a similar one in Hamilton recently. Some concerns were raised about the security of the proposed design in a CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) review commissioned (Appendix W in “Application (5 of 5)“).

    Cycle underpass through Rotokauri roundabout in Hamilton
    Cycle underpass through Rotokauri roundabout in Hamilton
    • Further south, one of the more contentious project decisions has been the restricted access to Wairakei Rd. It has been increased from the original design, but it still won’t be possible to cross over to the airport from here (although there is an emergency access path shown on the plan). Southbound cyclists will be able to enter or exit Wairakei Rd here, but there’s no option for northbound riders (or indeed any northbound traffic). By the way, this is also where you exit the highway if you want to access Memorial Ave from the north.
    New Wairakei Rd connection
    New Wairakei Rd connection
    •  At Memorial Ave, the existing roundabout will be replaced with a new “feature” flyover and traffic signals. This certainly represents an improvement over trying to run the gauntlet at the current intersection, with cycle lanes and hook turn boxes provided. Nevertheless, it will still be a somewhat daunting intersection, with up to four approach lanes of traffic right next to you.
    New Russley-Memorial interchange - this looks fun to bike through...
    New Russley-Memorial interchange – this looks fun to bike through…

    One wonders why more can’t be made of using the footpaths under the flyover to provide an off-road cycling option here. It would then be relatively easy to run it along the NE side of Memorial Ave (where there is only the Russley Golf Course) to connect to the existing Burnside cycleway route. Additional space is provided under the flyover for possible future light-rail connection (see plans in the middle of “Application (2 of 5)“), so it would be straightforward to provide a wider shared pathway.

    • Further south, road access in and out of the two sides of Avonhead Rd will be removed. The plans indicate a path connection from Avonhead Rd east, but I’m not sure why it’s oriented only for riders entering SH1, not exiting.
    Changes to Avonhead Rd intersection
    Changes to Avonhead Rd intersection
    • Finally we get to the new southern access that links into the Dakota Park airport business area. On-road shoulders in all directions coupled with the underpass ensure that someone cycling can get to/from any direction. But it does seem a bit convoluted to have to travel ~600m around a loop if coming from the north – surely it would be easier for a bike to connect to the adjacent service road?
SH1 southern access to the airport
SH1 southern access to the airport

Whew! As you can see, there is a lot to take in (never mind the visual impact assessment, water quality report, listed land use register, etc…). But while, in general, various concessions to cycling provision have been made, it still feels like a few missed opportunities to get it really right. Submissions on this are due by Wednesday 18th December. So have your say!

What do you think of the proposed Western Corridor upgrade works?


4 thoughts on “SH1 Western Corridor Upgrade Works”

  1. After a lot of good cycling news, this is a big disappointment to me. How are we going to encourage people of all ages and abilities to cycle along the SH1? I consider myself a confident rider but I am not keen at all and will try to avoid it like the plague. This is an arterial route and needs to have off road facilities. Do NZTA want to see fatalities first before we can put these in?

  2. Big thanks for wading through it all and providing the highlights. Very much appreciated.

    I can sympathise with the planners that it is difficult to win everyone over. First up it would be nice to know what types of cyclist would be using the route: airport commuters, recreational riders to Mcleans, hardcore road warriors… The needs are different. Ideally I’d agree that a parallel and separate path is best. Without this I wonder if high quality lanes on the urban routes would be better value so that commuters/recreationists are encouraged onto these roads and drivers are engineered to respect them. The Harewood crossing seems very much a compromise. I fear it will be little used but at great expense – surely it’s greatest use will be access to Mcleans island road, which it will do a poor job of.


  3. Yes, big ups for the comprehensive summary. Agree with the previous comments. Very disappointing that cycle access to/from Wairakei Road West is so limited as this would otherwise be a more attractive route to/from the airport cf Memorial Ave. Really weird that you only seem to be able to enter the airport from Wairakei Rd East and not able to exit at all. As someone who has biked to the airport to catch flights via Memorial Ave, in some ways the revamp will be somewhat safer with actual bike lanes, it will also be very frightening with all those lanes of traffic. There are a number of people who commute to work at the airport so hope they can give good input as to their preferred routes and how they are catered for with these changes.

  4. Oh lordy. So riding from Bishopdale along Harewood Rd to Raeward Fresh is a regular thing for me. I can’t see this making it easier — how is the approach to the underpass supposed to work?

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